Moving to Shanghai can be a daunting prospect. In a city so huge, choosing a good apartment can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Because of Shanghai’s enormous population there are residential buildings everywhere, even right in the centre of downtown. However, as the city has developed and spread, housing districts have gone up all across the suburban sprawl. So which is the best place to live? Depending on your situation, budget, and lifestyle requirements, there’s a pretty wide choice. Here are some of the main districts you should consider.
The area around Jing’an Temple has a lot going for it. It’s super-centrally located, well connected for transport (Metro Line 2), and has a park as well as shopping malls, bars, and restaurants. Between the main drags of Nanjing Lu and Beijing Lu there are lots of apartment blocks of varying standard, from basic studios to fancier three- and four-bedroom flats in complexes with pools and health clubs.
Advantages: well located, close to the French Concession, good amenities, near to Plaza 66 and other shopping centres, mix of cheaper and more expensive properties
Disadvantages: busy, noisy
Resident’s view: Tom from the UK has lived on Tongren Lu for five months. He says: “Living near Jing’an is brilliant. It’s so convenient, and my rent is quite reasonable. I live on the fourth floor of a five floor apartment block close to the Spot bar, and I’m really happy here. I work near Plaza 66 so it’s handy for commuting, plus there are lots of cool bars and restaurants nearby. It can get a bit noisy sometimes, but this is Shanghai – what do you expect?!”
If you’re coming to Shanghai with a family, Gubei is a great place to live. Towards the west of the city, it’s close to Hongqiao domestic airport, and is well served with child-friendly restaurants. Since so many expat families and businessmen live here, it has great community spirit, so if you’re nervous about leaving your community back home, you’ll soon settle in and make friends with people in a similar situation. Apartments in Gubei come at a price, so if you’re on a budget, it may not be the right place for you. Also, it’s quite far from the city centre, so you’ll be relying on taxis unless you have a car.
Advantages: near Hongqiao airport, good restaurants and bars, family friendly, quality apartments
Disadvantages: a bit of an expat bubble, far from town, expensive
Resident’s view: Sales executive Laure, originally from Lyon, has lived in Gubei for a year. She says: “My husband and I really like living in this part of town. We moved here from People’s Square when I found out I was pregnant as we wanted somewhere a bit calmer. I’m looking forward to bringing our child up here – it has all the conveniences of home.”
French Concession, Shanghai
Leafy streets, quaint villas, wine bar terraces… What’s not to love about the former French Concession? In a city as huge and often impersonal as ours, this area provides welcome relief from the modernity. Spanning the Luwan and Xuhui districts, and touching Changning to the south, the French Concession is a small paradise of boulevards and low-rise lane buildings. It’s one of the most popular parts of town for expats, especially Hengshan Lu and the Fumin/Changle crossroads, so you can expect to see lots of Western faces. Having said that, many of the smaller backstreets still have a very local feel.
Advantages: picturesque, quiet, leafy
Disadvantages: properties can be expensive, especially villa or lane house conversions (or, at the other end of the spectrum, older un-renovated apartments can be run-down and draughty) touristy, busy restaurants and bars
Resident’s view: Lewis moved to Yongfu Lu from his native Ireland two months ago. He says: “I’ve only been in Shanghai for a couple of months, but already I know that I’ll be staying in the French Concession. I’m from the countryside, so I wasn’t keen on living in a high-rise apartment in the city centre. The lane where I’m living is really quiet – most of the time I don’t feel as if I’m living in a big city.”
Shanghai People’s Square
Skyscrapers rising on the edges of People’s Park, the neon of Nanjing Lu, and the bustling backstreet neighbourhoods are all quintessential Shanghai. Living around People’s Square can be quite an experience. Just a stone’s throw from the Bund, and a short walk to Jing’an, it has all the benefits of city-centre life. You’ll never wait too long for a taxi, and there are literally thousands of restaurants and bars to choose from.
Advantages: central, mix of modern and traditional neighbourhoods, lots of amenities
Disadvantages: Busy, noisy, touristy
Resident’s view: Clare from London lives close to People’s Square. She says “Coming from London, I’m used to busy city life. Living behind People’s Square here in Shanghai is a real buzz, and property prices are surprisingly cheap for a standard studio.”
Looking at the skyline today, you wouldn’t think that Pudong was just marshland only a decade ago. With more space than Puxi, the eastern side of the river has a more laid-back feel, and is home to the city’s largest open space – Century Park. Pudong’s residential areas are favoured by office workers from the Lujiazui financial district, as well as families who want houses instead of apartments. Many Puxi-ites spurn Pudong, believing that it’s too far from Shanghai’s action, but the river is only a psychological barrier; from Century Avenue you can be at People’s Square in less than 10 minutes by metro.
Advantages: quiet, modern, suburban feel
Disadvantages: can feel isolated, costly taxi ride back from Puxi if you miss the last metro
Formerly the Jewish part of town, Hongkou in the north of the city is now famous for its football stadium. Its proximity to some of Shanghai’s university makes it popular with students, along with cheap rent.
Advantages: truly Chinese, cheap
Disadvantages: not as developed as more central districts
Resident’s view: Jose, a student from Mexico, moved to Sichuan Lu last September. He says: “Hongkou is about as far from typical expat life as you can get. That’s why I like it. The local restaurants and markets are cheap and good, and metro lines 3 and 4 pass by here. You get a real taste of Chinese life living here.”
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